Apple Card is a chain that’ll keep you locked to iPhone forever
Beautiful and practical credit card app interface • 3 percent cash back on purchases from Apple • Gorgeous titanium Apple Card • No annual fees
Other credit cards have better rewards • Lower APR with other credit cards • Titanium Apple Card only gives you 1 percent on non-Apple purchases
Apple Card is a credit card experience unlike any other, but it’ll tempt you to stick with Apple devices and services.
I told myself I wouldn’t get the Apple Card. I repeatedly reminded myself why: The cash back rewards aren’t that good, and, hey dude, you don’t need another credit card.
But like any tech-obsessed geek drawn to a shiny new product, I couldn’t resist. I hesitated for a few days after getting the early press invite and tried to talk myself out of it, but FOMO got the best of me.
Plus, I really wanted the physical titanium Apple Card. The laser-etched Apple logo and numberless design on matte white is just so, so pretty.
A week after getting approved, receiving my titanium card in the mail, and using Apple Pay to purchase food, groceries, and more, I think I have a good understanding of what works, what doesn’t, and what needs improvement.
I hope my ill-advised FOMO can help you make an informed decision on whether or not Apple Card is right for you.
Super easy application process
Applying for Apple Card couldn’t have been easier. All you have to do is sign up to get invited and then open up the Wallet app on your iPhone (must be running iOS 12.4 or later) and tap the “+” icon.
Assuming you’ve got good credit (Goldman Sachs, the Apple Card’s issuer, is accepting subprime users), you should get approved in just a few minutes. It took less than 3 minutes for me.
I was asked to confirm my personal information like my name, phone number, and address (all pre-filled from my iCloud account) and enter my date of birth, last four digits of my Social Security number, and annual income. I also had to scan my driver’s license/state ID (some people didn’t have to do this) with my iPhone’s camera.
Just before approval, the app told me what my credit limit and APR would be based on my credit history. Goldman Sachs gave me a 17.99 percent APR and $7,500 credit limit, which is a higher APR and lower credit line than what I have from my other two credit cards.
Across the board, though, it appears Goldman Sachs is offering lower-than-average credit limits so keep that in mind. APR rates for Apple Card vary from between 12.99-23.99 percent.
There’s a couple more steps to add Apple Card as your default card for Apple Pay and order the titanium Apple Card (it ships in 4-6 business days), but once all that was finished, I was able to immediately use the digital card wherever Apple Pay is accepted.
To me, this incredibly easy application process is one of Apple Card’s biggest strengths. Nobody likes filling out long forms from banks such as Chase or Wells Fargo. And waiting for a physical card to arrive in the mail before you can use it is such an antiquated way of doing things. With Apple Card, it takes literally just a few taps on your iPhone and you’re done.
For millennials and Gen Z, who’ve grown up managing their lives digitally, Apple Card is as frictionless as it gets for a credit card. All banks should take notice — in 2019, this is the correct way to sign up for credit card. I suspect a lot of young people, especially those who don’t have a credit card, will sign up for Apple Card simply because it’s right there in their iPhone.
Apple Card interface is pure Apple
Apple Card’s best feature is how it displays your spending information. Instead of a traditional credit card statement, Apple’s designed a beautiful and interactive interface in the Wallet app that makes it easy to track your spending.
It’s super cliché to say Apple just repackaged credit card data into a more visually pleasing interface, but it’s 100 percent true and not dissimilar to how Mint made managing your money more tolerable with charts and graphs.
I really can’t praise the Apple Card spending interface enough. It’s so straightforward that a child could understand it, and makes me wonder why nobody else did it first.
Every piece of spending data is neatly laid out so that you can understand it all at a glance. At the top is your digital Apple Card. It starts out as white — a blank card with full credit — and changes colors in real time as you make purchases across different transaction categories.
Yellow is for shopping, orange is for food and drinks, purple is services, green is travel, blue is transportation, pink is entertainment, and red is for health.
I mostly used my Apple Card for food and drinks so my digital card was predominantly orange. But it got splotches of blue when I rented Citibikes and pink for my monthly iCloud subscription.
This color-shifting visual card was really effective at making me more conscious of what I was spending my money on; I felt guilty seeing my Apple Card almost entirely orange and a $90 balance beneath it.
When I tried explaining Apple Card and the interface to friends, many of them shrugged, and basically said “it’s just a prettier interface” and that they could see the same information in their banking apps.
And while I agree with that, I felt the psychological effects of the Apple Card’s interface working on me as I used the card; my Chase banking app has never once made me feel bad for spending so much.
Information displayed in banking apps doesn’t feel “alive” like it does on Apple Card. With Apple’s credit card interface, I literally watched as my total balance jumped up and my available credit decreased as a merchant processed a transaction. Similarly, the app showed me exactly how much cash back (as a percentage and dollar amount) I got per transaction.
It’s not just seeing the balance increase that made me want to clamp down on spending, but the fact there’s also a prominent “Pay Now” button right next to it to essentially nudge me into making payments. I felt compelled to pay at least some of my balance after every new transaction.
I don’t know anyone who wants to look at their credit card statement or banking app. I know I hate opening my Chase app to see a ton of charges. Strangely, because I get a notification after each transaction and the Wallet app is literally a tap away (also in Control Center), I noticed myself becoming more aware of not only how much I was spending, but also how much of the balance I already paid off. It was a dreadful feeling seeing my balance go up while the amount I paid off remain so low — just enough to gently prod me into making more payments as soon as possible.
Missing from Apple Card’s interface is any way to limit your spending, either by category or merchant. Like Screen Time, which lets you limit how much time you spend in different kinds of apps, I would love to see a future update that lets me limit my spending on, say, food after hitting a certain dollar amount.
The cash back isn’t the best, but it is almost instant
Apple doesn’t hide the fact that Apple Card doesn’t give you the most cash back. With Apple Card, here’s what you get:
3 percent on purchases from Apple (includes everything from Apple Stores, Apple’s online store, the App Store, iTunes, in-app purchases, and Apple services such as iCloud and Apple Music)
3 percent on purchases from Uber and Uber Eats with Apple Pay (According to Apple: “Apple Pay is coming soon to Uber services like Uber Cash, Scheduled Rides and JUMP.”)
2 percent on all purchase with Apple Pay
1 percent (everything with the titanium Apple Card)
As you can see, unless you shop from Apple often or use Uber or Uber Eats, you’re probably mostly going to get 2 percent cash back on purchases via Apple Pay.
The most disappointing thing about Apple Card is how little you get back using the physical card — only 1 percent cash back. I get that the whole point of Apple Card is to incentivize the use of the digital card. The titanium card is there almost as a backup — for places that don’t accept Apple Pay — but 1 percent cash back is mediocre.
If Apple Card is your only credit card and you’re paying for something at a place that doesn’t accept Apple Pay, then you have no choice but to swipe your titanium card. But, if you have another credit card with better rewards, then the physical Apple card becomes pretty useless.
As a Prime member who shops at Amazon and Whole Foods a lot, I don’t think I will be using my Apple Card much over my primary Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature, which gives me 5 percent back on purchases from Amazon.com and Whole Foods; 2 percent back at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores; and 1 percent back on all other purchases.
For me, the Apple Card’s going to be the most valuable for buying a new iPhone or Apple Watch, which I know I’ll do every two years or so; I’ll get at least $30 cash back instead of $10 on a new iPhone versus my Amazon Prime card. (FYI, if you’re on Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program and bill your Apple Card with it, you’ll get the full 3 percent cash back.)
Apple Card’s 3 percent back will also be nice for when I inevitably have to buy a new MacBook Pro (I’m holding out until new ones come with redesigned keyboards and hopefully Face ID). And I suppose it’s nice to get 3 percent back on my iCloud subscription and app purchases from the App Store.
Earning 3 percent back for purchases from Uber and Uber Eats is also pretty good and might make me switch back from Lyft.
Do your homework, though, and you’ll find plenty of credit cards with arguably better rewards programs, whether with cash back, points, or miles.
For Apple’s part, the company says it “will continue to add more popular merchants and apps in the coming months.”
That said, Apple Card’s “Daily Cash” is attractive. Rather than having to wait an entire billing cycle to get cash back or rewards points, Daily Cash gives gives you money back immediately after transactions post. Daily Cash is accrued in your Apple Cash Card (also displayed in the Wallet app, but separate from Apple Card — confusing, I know) and can be used ASAP on purchases via Apple Pay, sent to friends through iMessage, or transferred to your bank account.
Daily Cash deposited in your Apple Cash Card can also be used to pay or reduce your Apple Card balance, though there’s no way to automatically apply it until you make or schedule a payment.
Living even deeper in Apple’s ecosystem
Apple loves to describe its products as “magical” — easy to set up, beautiful to look at, and they work seamlessly with other Apple devices.
As much as I enjoyed using Apple Card, I can now say it’s just short of being magical. The credit card’s interface is both gorgeous and practical, and I really appreciate the security aspects (i.e. you can request a new card number in the Wallet app if, say, a merchant suffers a data breach), but at the end of the day, Apple Card is a way to further lock you into the Apple ecosystem.
Think about it: You use an Apple Card to make purchases, get Daily Cash back to then either send to your friends over iMessage or spend on other Apple stuff (products, services, etc.). The digital credit card itself is managed entirely through your iPhone, which makes it all but impossible to get an Android phone in the future.
And because Apple Card incentivizes you with the most cash back to buy products and services from Apple, you’re more likely to subscribe to Apple Music instead of Spotify or buy iCloud storage instead of Dropbox. You might even be tempted to get an Apple Watch (if you don’t already have one) because you can use it to buy things with Apple Pay.
Lose your iPhone with your Apple Card on it, but still need to pay off your bill? The only way to pay off your Apple Card is to buy a new iPhone, use another iOS device like an iPad, or call Apple because there’s no web interface (yet) like every other banking app.
With Apple Card, you’re basically running on an Apple hamster wheel. If you’ve already consigned your life to Apple’s walled garden, then by all means, Apple Card will definitely make your devices and services all the more integrated.
But if you don’t want to essentially be chained to the iPhone, you should not get an Apple Card.
Personally, I’ll be using my Apple Card only for Apple purchases and as a backup card when I’m traveling (in-app card cancellation is great for this).
The physical titanium card may be the most beautiful credit card you’ll ever own, but remember, it’s just a piece of metal — one that likely won’t earn you as much as other credit cards. It’s not worth it just for flexin’.
UPDATE: Aug. 20, 2019, 11:34 a.m. EDT Added info on new Daily Cash Back for Uber and Uber Eats.